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SU named to President's Higher Education Community Service list for fourth year in a row

Written by Dean Forbes
October 21, 2016

For the fourth year in a row, Seattle University was among U.S. colleges and universities named to thePresident's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for its work that supports exemplary community service programs and that raises the visibility of effective practices in campus community partnerships.

Seattle U was named in all four categories of service that the Honor Roll recognizes for the 2015 awards.  Seattle U received "distinction" honors in the general community service, education and interfaith categories; and received "recognition" designation in the general economic opportunity category. Honor roll "with distinction" is awarded to those applicants that display strong levels of institutional commitment, and provide a compelling case for partnerships that produce measurable impact in the community. Honor roll recognition is awarded to institutions that demonstrate relevant and meaningful service and achieve measurable impacts in the community.

The General Community Service category recognizes institutions that have made a commitment to improving the quality of life of off-campus community residents, particularly low-income individuals. Seattle U's Center for Community Engagement, which submitted the application to the honor roll, noted these programs:

  • Seattle University Youth Initiative (SUYI) unites the university and the wider community to create a pipeline of support for low-income youth and families living in Seattle's Bailey Gatzert/Yesler Terrace neighborhood. The aim is to provide wraparound support for children from birth to college or career.  About 1,360 Seattle U students were mobilized to serve. Three hundred neighborhood youth participated in academic and enrichment summer programs.

  • Seattle University initiated its Film & Family Homelessness Project in August 2013 to harness the power of film for increasing public awareness and understanding of family homelessness in Washington state. In June 2014, the films premiered to a sold-out audience at the Seattle International Film Festival. All four films, along with a discussion guide and trailer, were released on YouTube through the project website, AmericanRefugees.org. Since then the films have been shared at events around the region and in Washington, DC, and viewed online over 200,000 times.

  • Seattle University is a leader in service-learning and was, for the third consecutive year, appeared with only 24 other institutions in U.S. News and World Report 's list of top schools for service-learning. In 2013-2014, 104 Seattle University faculty members taught 230 service-learning course sections at the undergraduate and graduate levels. More than 2,700 students provided over 49,000 hours of service to 70 nonprofits and schools. 

The Education category recognizes institutions that have made a commitment to improving educational outcomes for children and youth in pre-kindergarten through undergraduate education:

  • Seattle University's partnership with Bailey Gatzert Elementary School is a central component of the Youth Initiative. The university has a full-time staff person working in the building, a staff person focusing on parent engagement, two AmeriCorps members, and several other staff who offer support on specific projects. Several dozen federal community service work-study students also serve at Gatzert.

  • Seattle U partners with Seattle Housing Authority and local institutions and nonprofits through a federal HUDChoice Neighborhood Initiative grant to create a cradle-through-college pipeline of learning resources for children and youth. In collaboration with multiple organizations, Seattle U is implementing a coordinated approach to ensure low-income children in the Yesler neighborhood have access to early learning programs, tutoring, summer academic enrichment programs, college preparation mentoring and scholarships.

  • The Strengthening Families Program (SFP) is a nationally and internationally recognized parenting and family strengthening program for high-risk families. SFP is a seven-week parenting program for both parents and children ages 11 to 14. Program goals include increasing parent self-efficacy, increasing parent support at home, increasing child emotional/social development, and providing youth with a caring role model. 

Interfaith community service programs foster meaningful relationships among community members of differing faiths and backgrounds:

  • Seattle University has had an important and ongoing relationship with the country of Nicaragua since 1996. Faculty members and administrators share in a nine-day program to learn about the country of Nicaragua, including the overall social, historical and political context, as well as a more intimate look at the economic challenges that face so many people in urban and rural settings. The program includes significant interaction with the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA), another Jesuit Catholic institution, including peer meetings and introduction to the university outreach programs. The faculty/staff immersion program has brought 85 faculty, 43 staff and six trustees/spouses to Nicaragua on nine separate trips.

  • Seattle U has partnered with the Shinnyo-En Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Shinnyo-En lay Buddhist Order, to offer a variety of service leadership positions. Shinnyo-en summer fellows each served 20 hours per week at a local community agency of their choice, reflected on their vocational paths, and coordinated planning efforts for their fall service projects. For the first time in the 2013-2014, representatives of the Shinnyo-En Youth Association, belonging to various Shinnyo-En temples in the Seattle area, joined Seattle students in the "Labor of Love" service day each quarter. 

The Economic Opportunity category recognizes institutions with service programs that build economic independence, increase family stability, and create more sustainable and resilient communities:

  • Seattle U hosts a club chapter of Enactus , an international non-profit organization that works with leaders in business and higher education to mobilize university students to make a difference in their communities while developing the skills to become socially responsible business leaders. The Enactus chapter is very active, with 20 members who served for a cumulative 2,075 hours throughout the year.

  • For 39 years, Seattle U has been an active participant in the United Way Free Tax Campaign, which operates near an affordable housing development and serves a largely low income population. During the 2014 tax season, university volunteers processed 556 tax returns. These returns generated over $510,000 in total tax refunds and $153,428 in total Earned Income Tax Credit.

  • Seattle U's Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center has partnered with the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) to support local businesses as part of the Yesler Terrace Economic Development Project. Small business owners in the Yesler Terrace neighborhood, which is currently in redevelopment through HUD's Choice Neighborhood Initiative, face upheaval and shifting business conditions. The SU team identified 36 Yesler Terrace resident business owners who were living in the neighborhood or who had been recently relocated. During spring 2014, the team conducted a group session among 16 of the childcare providers, followed up by phone interviews with the drivers and service providers, to better understand their situations and current needs. 

The Corporation for National Community Service has administered the award since 2006 in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the American Council on Education, Campus Compact, and the Interfaith Youth Core.